Three years ago, CyberUp launched our PowerUp Cyber Games program in partnership with our friends at Cyber Skyline. We get asked a lot about why we started the program. We also get asked a lot about the important role a program like PowerUp can play for middle and high school students. With the upcoming season upon us, it felt right to explain both of these and encourage you to tell others to join us and participate in the 2022 – 2023 competition.
Why we started PowerUp Cyber Games
From the very beginning, youth engagement was essential to the work of CyberUp. For years we hosted camps and competitions throughout the region. These events brought students from all backgrounds together to learn about cybersecurity. This ranged from the types of careers available, pathways to obtain them, and testing very technical skills.
However, what we found was these were all merely a moment in time for the students. They would spend a blip with us, get inspired, and return to a school that likely didn’t have the curriculum or resources the students needed to pursue cybersecurity. This isn’t a knock on education but more an acknowledgment that schools all across our country are working hard on so many things. Computer Science education is at the top of the list for many orgs and they are getting there but it will absolutely take more time.
That being said, we recognized an opportunity in front of us. Could we make a program that supported students, supported teachers, and made all of the other stuff “easier?” Poof, with a lot of stuff in between, we launched the first season of PowerUp in 2020. Now you may be thinking, “are you crazy?” The world was in a global pandemic. How can you possibly make this thing work? With a little bit of tenacity and grit, we recruited nearly 500 students from across the country to compete. We had some bumps and bruises along the way but in the end, the feedback we received was tremendous (keep reading for that).
Fast forward to this year, we more than doubled the participants, mapped our curriculum to Computer Science standards (thanks Rachel), and are launching our PowerUp Portal to make competing even easier. More important, teachers are watching students who have been unengaged in the past participate. Teachers feel supported to teach a hard and potentially new subject to them. And last but not least, we believe we are inspiring the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.
Why PowerUp helps students
Cybersecurity is important. Regardless of a career choice. This is our new norm. There are hackers out there on every platform looking to find ways to take someone’s information. Having a baseline of skills to defend against that (regardless of age) will be more and more important in the future.
It is hard to ignore the fact that we live in a hyper-connected digital world. We are carrying supercomputers in our pockets and have grown accustomed to having data at the tip of our fingers in an instant. This has evolved into things like social media, online learning, and eSports. For those of you who aren’t sure what eSports is let us explain really quick. I imagine your son/daughter finishes their homework really quick to play on their computer